#MoneyTalk: The power of women talking about money
In the September issue of British Vogue, guest-edited by the Duchess of Sussex, actress and activist Jameela Jamil not only featured as one of the 15 hand-picked ‘Forces for Change’ covering the issue, but also wrote a column calling out the ludicrous beauty standards imposed on women in our society. “Why should we be doomed to waste our fine minds counting calories, pounds, stones and inches when we could be counting meaningful experiences, money and orgasms?” I noticed a man, unsurprisingly, who’d responded on Twitter, asking “Why are you encouraging women to count money?”.
Talking about money is an age-old taboo, particularly for women. Even in 2019, there’s still a stigma attached to women speaking candidly about their financial situations. But in an age when ending the gender pay gap, breaking the glass ceiling and celebrating female independence are all high priorities on the feminist agenda, talking about money is something we, as women, probably really should be doing.
Women are taught to view each other as competitors in all aspects of life, including their careers and financial success. We live in a society where we’ve been conditioned to view one woman’s economic gain as another woman’s downfall, and so money naturally isn’t something we’re comfortable talking about between each other. But this narrative needs to change, as the reality is, one woman’s success is a source of inspiration to another woman, or another hundred women, and the key to climbing the social, political and economic ladder is for women to work together, which is why talking about money is so important in a society when female empowerment and advancement is at the forefront of our minds.
As the idea for this piece came to me while thinking about female empowerment and how we can continue to empower women moving forward in society, I initially dismissed it. I, myself, know very little about money and finance. I’ve always been a good saver, I have never had an overdraft or been in any sort of debt aside from my student loans, and I have a vague idea of how a mortgage works, but that’s the short and the long of it. Who am I to talk about the power of money talk as a tool of female empowerment, when I’m as guilty as anyone of being somewhat clueless about the ins and outs of finances? I’m not even particularly interested in money, but that’s something that’s most likely been ingrained in me from the fact that I’m a woman, and I’ve never directly been encouraged to take an interest in financial matters, as if there’s some sort of male bubble surrounding these topics.
The fact of the matter is, women with no or little economic clout or financial knowledge can’t enjoy the same societal power or influence as men. By shushing women’s voices about money, we’re silencing their voices in making societal change. Earning, saving, spending and investing are all topics women should be encouraged to talk about. As more and more women choose to stay single or not marry, or become the primary owner in a couple or family, financial independence and discussing financial issues is more important than ever. Everyone needs money to survive, and money is just another aspect of the ambition and success that we should be encouraging women to strive towards in today’s society. And if we’re excluded from these conversations by men, the key to empowering each other through money talk is starting and normalising these conversations between ourselves.
A crucial step towards normalising money talk between women is being transparent about numbers. Though female celebrities and influencers are becoming less and less afraid to show their wealth online and take pride in their entrepreneurial success, women are still hesitant to discuss the figures behind this success. Particularly in the influencer era where women are judged for making their living via social media and questioned on how they make their money, it’s important for women to speak openly about what they’re earning and how they worked to get there.
Thankfully, there’s a rising movement of communities looking to break the stigma around money talk among women. A Woman’s Worth Collective, a collaboration between Stylist Magazine and NatWest, is one of the communities dedicated to opening up conversations around money and offering women a space to access and discuss tips and advice on how to improve their financial and economic wellbeing, giving women a platform to empower each other through these conversations. Encouraging women to talk about money is essential in our still manifestly patriarchal, male-dominated society, and a key to changing women’s position across all sectors of that society.
By Ruby McAuliffe